Dancing beyond borders

SANS LIMITS Veena Basavarajaiah: `I have never felt restricted or limited in any way'

SANS LIMITS Veena Basavarajaiah: `I have never felt restricted or limited in any way'   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.

Veena Basavarajaiah has learnt different forms of dance from Bharatanatya to ballet with a dash of Kalari Payattu thrown in for good measure

She is tall, dusky and has an arresting stage presence. Her sinuous movements, whether Kalaripayattu or contemporary, defy gravity. This is Veena Basavarajaiah, a young dancer who is daring enough to challenge her physical abilities to "explore spaces." Veena started learning Bharatanatya at the age of 13 from Shubha Dhananjay, Kalari for the last four years from Ranjan Mullaratt and Attakalari and ballet from Yana Lewis. Veena says: "Shubha is an amazing mentor. She has sown the seeds of dancing in me. She is very open-minded about encouraging her students." Why the need to learn so many forms? Isn't there a clash between the concrete and the abstract styles? "It is like learning different languages to communicate. It is just an urge to grow and I am interested in anything to do with dance even if it is an abstract form. Why Bharatanatya too is abstract in some ways — like the concept of spirituality or our visualisation of Lord Krishna. But people fail to look at it this way. I have never felt restricted or limited in any way," says Veena, who has been funding her own classes "ever since I graduated. I would learn and perform for a dance company and use that money to learn a new form."Attakalari, Shobhana Jeysingh and Aangika Dance Company are some of the companies that she has worked with. At 24, Veena has travelled across the world, teaching and performing. "I love working with children in the age group of three to six. They are so receptive and yet it is so challenging to arrest their attention! The saddest part of working abroad is when they think any dance from India means Bollywood dance." Veena teaches even in India and her classes include verbal communication, story telling verbally and with movement and introduction to theatre besides creative dancing for children. Ask her if she had any culture shocks while working abroad and the reply is "No, nothing like that. London is an extension of Bangalore. And as long as I got a chance to hone my dancing skills, I felt at home. One has to go with the flow then it's easy. Again it all depends on one's cultural upbringing. Even the west is conventional in many ways."Now that she is into kalari and contemporary dance does she return to Bharatanatya? "I do. But one has to start classes to sustain oneself in a classical art form. And for me only my guru (Shubha) can take the place of a teacher here. Where as in contemporary I can earn by performing for various dance companies and also by teaching creative dancing."Does she find the rules in a classical dance binding? "Whatever the rules or the limitations be of a particular form, one has to make the sky their boundary. To grow as an artiste one has to be ready to experiment."What does she think of contemporary dancers moving to silence? "Silence is something on which music is built. Creativity is also brought alive from nothingness." Veena is disappointed with the festivals organised in India. "I would love to be a part of any dance fest. But most of them prefer `established dancers,'" observes Veena who prefers to go solo when it comes to contemporary dance "to establish myself as a solo performer."The exciting thing about being a dancer, she says, is that she gets to dance for a minimum of three hours to six hours a day and "every day is different," says Veena, who adds that her parents "will be thrilled if I became a lawyer, they've never discouraged me from my dreams, but have given me enough space to make learn from my mistakes."Veena can be contacted on This column features those who choose to veer off the beaten track.SHILPA SEBASTIAN R.

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